Attending organized team activities at the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan represented another small step towards normalcy. Since all of the drastic changes the organization has undergone the past few months, witnessing drills out on the football field was a bright spot for many.
From changes in ownership, the front office, and all the way down to the coaching staff and starting quarterback, a day of covering football activities closer to the action was embraced by many who attended.
Here are four observations from Thursday's open OTA workout.
Change in schedule
Dan Campbell and the roster of voluntary participants will again take part in the second week of OTAs next week.
The plan is then for veteran mini-camp in week three. After that, Campbell expressed that he planned to use the fourth week to work with the rookies, young players and any veterans that wanted to remain and continue to work.
Strong attendance for voluntary workouts
For workouts that were completely voluntary, the Lions had a strong turnout in Week 1.
At least 80 members of the roster showed up to the practice facility to work with the coaching staff and their new teammates.
Veterans Jamie Collins, Michael Brockers and Tyrell Crosby were not present during workouts.
Crosby was a notable absence, since trade rumors have swirled the past couple of weeks. Detroit may be looking to shop the lineman in the future, but the 25-year-old lineman has still participated in virtual sessions all spring.
Brockers and Collins have stayed in contact with the coaching staff, despite not being present for OTAs with the rest of their teammates.
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Multiple players and coaches continued to echo the sentiment that work can still get done out on the football field while still having fun.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson noted that it is a privilege to play a "kids game" for a living and that the fun environment has become infectious.
“I think we’re just being ourselves," Campbell said. "I think everybody that I’ve hired here, they’re just being who they are, man. They know how to demand a lot out of the players, but they also know how to tell them when they’re doing a good job. I think that’s what they do well."
He explained further, "The trick is always how do you get them to work where they don’t even realize they’re working? Well, you make it as competitive as you can, but yet still be smart about it. Just about every player that’s up here -- if you’re at this level, you’re probably pretty competitive. And so, you put them in a competitive environment, even as small as it can be, man, they can’t help themselves. The juices start flowing and they just want to be better and they don’t want to be the guy who gets beat by somebody or -- it doesn’t matter what the competition is. I think there’s small things in there -- even (special teams coach) Dave Fipp’s drill, some of what he does. You’re rounding a bag. The first one to round the bag, five yards, and come back. It’s a punt return drill or it’s a punt cover drill, but it’s nothing like you’re running 50 yards downfield. It’s just small, competitive, small-area. I think that stuff makes it fun, and guess what, they’re getting work out of it. They’re getting better.”
Jared Goff is the new leader under center
The Lions completed approximately 10 reps of 7-on-7, and Detroit's new signal-caller looked the part. He was able to connect with T.J. Hockenson and D'Andre Swift on strong passes. Goff provided a glimpse of what this offense could look like in the fall.
"He’s a guy who really cares about his players, wants to connect with them,” Hockenson told reporters. “I think that’s really cool. Just to be able to have that connection outside of football. Just to be able to hang out with him, be friends. That’s a cool situation that we have and that he’s got in that locker room.”
Swift chuckled when asked if Goff threw a similar football as Matthew Stafford. He noted that he could catch the "football" just the same.
It was observed after drills that Goff and Swift were engaged in discussions -- a point that Swift explained to reporters.
"Always. Like I said. He's a leader. Always helping me," he said. "Anything to just help my game and make it better for the offense.